Comenius and the Bestseller List
By John Taylor; 2008 May 31, 15 `Azamat, 165 BE
We are living in a knowledge explosion. An atomic detonation, in fact; a huge mushroom cloud is sucking up good and bad information. Then later it all rains down on our heads. If there is bad data in the mix it acts like radioactive fallout mixing around with the good. We die from it, sooner or later.
For example, now they are researching and teaching nano-technology in every high technology center. Then nano-junk goes into frivolous products like cosmetics; and last week we here of a study finding that nano-particles act like asbestos in the body -- and do not even think about what they will do to animals and plants once they end up in landfills... The only way to make this explosion into a good thing is for teachers to teach better than they are. We need to teach wisdom. We need to teach faith. We need to teach restraint, planning, consultation, world citizenship, philosophy... not continue teaching dubieties that are as likely as not to make things worse than they already are.
That is why I think Comenius is a writer who should be on the top of all the bestseller lists, instead of the intellectual nano-particle ridden crap that is up there now. Now it is possible to use computers to aid the learning process very effectively. Comenius started it going centuries ago, when he wrote,
"If, in each hour, a man could learn a single fragment of some branch of knowledge, a single rule of some mechanical art, a single pleasing story or proverb (the acquisition of which would require no effort), what a vast stock of learning he might lay by. Seneca is therefore right when he says: `Life is long, if we know how to use it.' It is consequently of importance that we understand the art of making the very best use of our lives." (Wikiquotes, Comenius, http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/John_Amos_Comenius)
In fact, as we all know, the Bab predicted that learning and data retrieval would one day explode, but explode in a good way, without radioactive fallout. He is cited as saying,
"The newly born babe of that Day excels the wisest and most venerable men of this time, and the lowliest and most unlearned of that period shall surpass in understanding the most erudite and accomplished divines of this age...." (The Bab, quoted in "The Dawn-Breakers: Nabil's Narrative of the Early Days of the Baha'i Revelation" trans. and ed. Shoghi Effendi, London, Baha'i Publishing Trust, 1975, p. 65)
I recently ordered Comenius's Panorthosia, his master plan for uniting the world under a single schema of learning, applying systematic learning to the ultimate end of all learning, and all religion too: the establishment of a world government and a world culture. The Panorthosia covers basically what we call the Baha'i principles now. This is an astonishing book, all the more amazing when you think of the dramatic story of how it came down to us. What happened was that Comenius worked on it till his last days and on his deathbed got his son to swear to get it published. He did his best to do so, but something happened to prevent it, though. The manuscript ended up stuck away in some obscure monastery in a small German duchy. Apparently the only person who pulled it off the shelf during all those centuries was another genius, GWV Liebniz. The latter lived nearby. His ideas and proposals for unifying Christianity and European states into a single political union fell in line so closely to the Panorthosia that the translator of the book is convinced he must have read it.
Anyway, fast forward to the 1930's and suddenly somebody discovers the manuscript, which had been thought lost for three hundred years, and translates it into
"While a global people's assembly has revolutionary potential it is hardly a new idea. The first reference to the notion I have seen is contained in Alfred Tennyson's poem Locksley Hall, written in 1842. ('Till the war-drum throbb'd no longer, and the battle flags were furl'd In the parliament of man, the Federation of the world.") Today there are at least six competing models and scores of proposals, each supported by a vocal faction. (Age of Consent p. 86)
I could not resist whipping off an email to the author, in which I said,
Dr. Monbiot, I just finished your Age of Consent, which I enjoyed immensely and gave favorable reviews on my blog (badiblog.blogspot.com). However, with regard to (the passage quoted above) in the Age of Consent, I note that, as you no doubt are aware, Kant wrote a "sketch" for a world constitution much earlier, and I just came across this, from the Czech reformer Jan Amos Comenius, in his Panorthosia,
"I never forgot that beautiful dream of Jeremiah concerning the wonderful church and the restoration of the world for her sake, nor lost my constant desire to serve God's good purpose in this matter. These devout plans were in course of time carried to fulfillment in the achievement of my sevenfold work... What is essentially new is its universal range, nothing less, in fact, than the reform of all persons and everywhere."
"We shall also be bold as it were in the parliament of the whole world to proclaim how in our judgment, Learning, Religion and Government may be brought to certain immutable principles or bases, to their best foundation, so that ignorance, uncertainty, discussions, the noise and tumult of disputes, quarrels and wars shall cease throughout the world and Light, Peace and Sanity return, and that golden age which has ever been longed for, the age of light and peace and religion, may be brought to sight." (1664) (Panorthosia, p. 14)
from: Jan Amos Comenius, Panorthosia, or Universal Reform, Chapters 1-18 and 27, translated by A.M.O. Dobbie
If I were less polite, I would have added that what Comenius suggests is far better, bolder, more far reaching and more comprehensive than anything Monbiot or anybody else today dares suggest.
Comenius's idea would actually work.
Comenius understood that world government is not a political project at root; it is an educational enterprise. Monbiot, passionate as is his love of justice, and clever as his ideas are, is sadly caught up in the conflict of protester versus establishment, a model that is outmoded and tedious and, as history has amply demonstrates, does as much harm as good, and even when successful revolutions always eats their own children. What Comenius proposes is a positive unification, the combination of all knowledge, all intellectuals, all religious people to form what Baha'u'llah later called an "all embracing assemblage of humanity." There is no more exiting book for the environment and for the world than the Panorthosia that has come out over the past several decades, and nobody has even heard of Comenius. This is unbelievable.
Comenius was not unfamiliar with war and conflict; he lived during the bloody Thirty Years War. But he saw that there is only way out of contention, and that is education. If people are disputing, both sides are wrong, both need to go back to school and learn to pray, reflect, consult and plan. It is as simple as that. Let Comenius have the last word; what he says in the following about learning being "useless, curious and pernicious" describes exactly the educational culture of today, with its nanotech and DNA splicing, even as millions of children languish around the world without access even to primary school.
"Education is indeed necessary for all, and this is evident if we consider the different degrees of ability. No one doubts that those who are stupid need instruction, that they may shake off their natural dullness. But in reality those who are clever need it far more, since an active mind, if not occupied with useful things, will busy itself with what is useless, curious, and pernicious."